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Race Report:French Creek Olympic Triathlon 2016

The French Creek Triathlon was my first triathlon event of the year. I didn’t know a whole lot about the race, but the timing of it fit well into my schedule. After checking out the race course and past results on their website, I knew I was up for a challenging event. Most of the prior years’ Olympic distance finish times in my age group were hovering around the 3-hour mark. A bit long for typical Olympic distance events. Usually, I am around the 2:30 time frame for Olympic distance tris. Having mountain biked at French Creek in the past, I knew it was hilly and the bike and run course solidified this.

I drove an hour up to French Creek State Park on Saturday, via the beautiful back roads of the Oley Valley, to pick up my race packet and do a little bike/run brick workout to preview the course a bit. The bike route was definitely hilly and most of the roads were in nice shape except for a partial stretch of Rt 345 that is in dire need of repaving.

I had to delay my course recon ride a bit while the French Creek”Tough Kids” triathlon was finishing up. It was pretty cool seeing all these little kids out there giving it their all. While I was waiting a minivan pulled up and the guy driving rolled the window down and introduced himself. It was Todd Hydock, another Amrita Ambassador that lives in the Philadelphia area. I had known of Todd but had never met him in person. We chatted for a while until the kids race had finished. Todd was doing the sprint race on Sunday, so we would talk more on Sunday.

Race swag was pretty nice for a small event. They had a nice white race tech shirt and a Clean Bottle water bottle. I had always wanted to get a Clean Bottle but never got around to getting one. There was also a reusable cloth tote bag and some other items from Brandywine Valley tourism too.

It was pretty dark for the ride up and it was just barely cracking light when I arrived at the race venue. It had rained heavily overnight and was still overcast which kept things dark until I got to transition.

I found an empty space on the rack right at the swim-in/run-out end of transition. Everyone else seemed to be congregating towards the other end. I preferred having space. It was still quite damp out, so I was happy to suit up early with my wetsuit.

I gingerly made my down to the swim start in bare feet to get in a little warm-up swim before the race. I was the first one in the water. Water wasn’t too bad. A little cool but perfect for a wetsuit swim. The water was a light, muddy color but not so dark you couldn’t see at all.

I had a lot of time before my wave start since it was the 2nd to last wave. My toes were pretty much numb by the time the race started. I really need to remember to bring some old flips or socks or something. I chatted a bit with a lady named, Jennifer from NJ, who was also outfitted in full Amrita Kit. She was not an Ambassador but knew Arshad and was a loyal Amrita customer.

I also ran into Amy & Bill Kline who are good friends with my old tri-blogger-buddy Shanna. I have run into them a lot over the last couple years and they are really nice to talk too. I didn’t know it after the race, but it was their 17th wedding anniversary that day. Pretty cool to be doing a triathlon for your anniversary!

The Swim

Finally, my wave was up. I sauntered into the water and was trying to stay back a little and to the left. The problem was everyone was staying back from the starting line. I was not about to stay back that far, so I ended up moving past everyone to the start line which was about waist deep. Not exactly where I like to be, but if they are going to lag back I might as well take the head start.

French Creek Olympic Triathlon 2016-Swim Exit

French Creek Olympic Triathlon 2016-Swim Exit

 

The first 200 yards kind of sucked like it usually does. It is just full of anxiety and nervous energy that it makes it hard to breathe. There was a little bit of bumping since some of the faster guys were going past or over me. Eventually, things settled out and got into my pace.

I had mostly clear water from there on out. Although I could have used some drafting help, not having to deal with others is nice too. I maintained a pretty steady swim and held steady for the rest of the two loop course. I never looked at my Garmin until I actually got out of the water.

I never looked at my Garmin until I actually got out of the water. It ready somewhere around 27 minutes, which is ok for me. I was hoping for faster but whatever. The worst thing is that the timing mats are the entrance/exit to transition, not at the swim exit. And it was at least tenth of a mile run to transition over little rocks. So my swim time ended up being around 28 minutes. I hate that!

T1

The 1st transition went rather smoothly. Ditched the wetsuit and popped on my bike shoes, helmet and off I went. Ba-da-bing…ba-da-boom!

Bike

There were practically no flat sections on this entire bike course! You are either going up or going down. Nothing in between.

French Creek Olympic Triathlon Bike Course Elevation Profile

French Creek Olympic Triathlon Bike Course Elevation Profile

The road conditions are mostly good, except for one smaller section on Rt 345 that is in SEVERE need of paving. It also would appear to be a well-shaded course, but hard to tell when it was so overcast. The road was also pretty wet

French Creek Olympic Triathlon 2016-Bike

French Creek Olympic Triathlon 2016-Bike

from the rain the night before.

My goal on this leg was to not overcook my legs on the hills and save something for the run. I would also try to bomb the downhills as much as possible and use “gravity” to my advantage.

I feel I executed that plan fairly well. It was surely not the fastest of rides, but my legs were still pretty fresh at the end. I ate one and a half Amrita Bars and 2 bottles of Skratch Labs during the ride. It is pretty easy to eat when you are climbing hills all morning.

T2

T2 was a bit of a blunder. I left my running shoes tied in a double know…duh!! So I was there fumbling around with that for far too long. It was such a rookie mistake. I also put socks on, which cost me some more time. Despite that, I still got out in 2 minutes and looking at the results probably would not have made much difference in the end anyway.

Run

The run started out flat for about a 1/4 mile and then it was up…and up…and up…for the first 4 miles. As soon as my legs were getting accustomed to running, the hills started. There was one section along a small lake that flattened out for a little bit, but then it was up again. The Olympic course also took a left, when the Sprint athletes went right back to the finish, to enjoy another larger hill climb.  By the time I reached the top my legs were screaming. I even walked about 10 yards or so just to get my HR down a little bit.

French Creek Olympic Triathlon Run Course Elevation Profile

French Creek Olympic Triathlon Run Course Elevation Profile

 

French Creek Tri Run

French Creek Tri Run

After the 2nd turnaround at the top of the last hill, it was all downhill for 2 miles to the finish. Ihave to say that last two miles were actually pretty fun. You knew you could just coast it in at that point. I felt bad for all the other athletes who were coming up those hills and was trying to give them some encouragement as I cruised past them.

 

I crossed the finish line feeling pretty good. The last 2 miles actually refreshed me a bit. Finish time was 3:01 and a few seconds. Not the best time for a Olympic distance event, but this was not your ordinary Olympic distance race.


French Creek Tri Finish

French Creek Tri Finish

Post-Race

After the race, I met up Amy & Bill, My Amrita-buddy Todd, and also Terry & Sean Fenoff who I had met at my a strength training workshop that my strength coach had a couple years ago.

I stopped by the timing booth and looked at the posted race results.  I saw that I came in 4th in my age group, which left me a little disappointed that I missed the podium by one place! Ugh…so close!

I decided that it wasn’t worth sticking around at that point and started packing up my bike and things in transition. I was also texting my wife telling her I got 4th in AG. While I was doing that Bill had stopped by and congratulated me on getting 3rd Place in my AG???!!! What??!! He informed me that the 1st place guy in my age group won the overall 1st place for the race, so that got me into 3rd! SWEET!!

I immediately text my wife back and said “scratch that…I actually got 3rd!” She was a little bummed that she wasn’t there now. So back I went and hung out for the post-race awards. It was pretty cool since Bill & Amy both won their Age Groups and they announced that it was their 17th wedding anniversary too! Also, Terry, Sean and Todd all podiumed too.  So it was pretty cool to see everyone up there.

French Creek Tri Podium

French Creek Tri Podium

I was pretty happy to finally get a podium finish in triathlon. I have been doing this for over 8 years and have yet to get a podium in a triathlon. I got one for running races and duathlons, but never a triathlon. I think the build up of experience over the years with good coaches and my focus on strength training this year is making a difference.

Next up Ironman 70.3 Syracuse…

Thanks for reading!

Round The Valley 2014 Century Ride Recap

Bicycling, Bike, Cycling, Endurance Sports, Pedalling, Sports, century, ride

Round the Valley Century Ride 2014-Pastures

I decided I needed to see some new territory on my long bike ride this week. This along with Longswamp Township decided to cover their entire road system in oil & chips, confirmed that I needed to get out of dodge. I searched around the internet for some century rides and came up with the Round The Valley century out in Lebanon County. It was only an hour and twenty minutes west via a easy drive on I-78 and the registration was a mere $30 + $15 for day of registration. The ride was described as scenic and challenging on the website, and it certainly lived up to that.

Bicycling, Bike, Cycling, Endurance Sports, Pedalling, Sports, century, ride

Round the Valley Century Ride 2014-Farm

The ride started at the Campbeltown Fire Station where i arrived around 7:30am. The parking lot was nowhere near full, which I was rather surprised. It was a pretty low key event. I went inside, registered and made a bathroom stop and headed on my way. They offered a vegetarian option for post-race food which I was happy to see. I also picked up some car window stickers displaying the 4 feet law for vehicles which I will gladly post in my back window.

I noticed on my drive it was quite windy, but it had seemed to subside a bit since arriving. The ride wound out through some beautiful farmlands and then ascending with a nice climb into some wooded mountainside. The roads were all well marked with an orange “V” with a circle around it with the pointy end of the V indicating the direction. The wind had picked up a bit but the ride was very well protected and it really did not cause that much issue.

Bicycling, Bike, Cycling, Endurance Sports, Pedalling, Sports, century, ride

Round the Valley Century Ride 2014-Mt Gretna Straightaway

The ride had a great variety of scenery as well as terrain.  We went through some tiny old Furnace villages, gamelands, and forests. My favorite part was the long flat stretch through the Mt. Gretna area. It was mostly flat, well-shaded and nicely paved large shoulder. I was able to get down in the aerobars for the majority of the stretch just cruise.

I was really surprised at the size of the shoulder on most of the roads on this ride. I really didn’t think that PennDOT knew what a paved shoulder was, but apparently they do in this part of PA. The majority of the roads were in very good condition on the ride with only a few that were a little rough. I only remember hitting one that was recently oil and chipped, but they must have swept up the extra chips because it was pretty nice. Apparently Longswamp Township does not know what sweeping up chips is all about.

Bicycling, Bike, Cycling, Endurance Sports, Pedalling, Sports, century, ride

Round the Valley Century Ride 2014-Cornwall Furnace Village

The rest stops had a good assortment of foods with water and Gatorade. Not quite the level of the Suburban Cyclists for the Nockamixon ride, but more than adequate. I actually skipped a couple of the stops all together since I brought my own race-day nutrition consisting of Amrita Bars, Skratch Labs and Chunks of Energy. There was also SAG vehicles monitoring the ride which was probably difficult since it was not very well attended by riders.

Bicycling, Bike, Cycling, Endurance Sports, Pedalling, Sports, century, ride

Round the Valley Century Ride 2014-Farm

I was frequently riding alone but would occasionally pass people here and there. It was reassuring to see others every so often just to make sure I didn’t miss a turn. On one wide-shouldered section of Rt 322 I came up behind 2 guys and a girl with matching kit going at a pretty casual pace. Instead of moving single file and letting me pass, the guy put his arm around the girl and started pushing her faster. What the hell is that? Then the third guy on the left, who had been riding just a foot or so behind them sped up and put his around the other guy. WTF? Is this a love-in or a bike ride? So they still would not let me by and the traffic was steady enough I could not get out in the traffic lane. They eventually caught up to another pack with similar kit on that was going even slower, so with no vehicles I was finally able to get out and pass by them. I really don’t understand why they could not let me by them.

Bicycling, Bike, Cycling, Endurance Sports, Pedalling, Sports, century, ride

Round the Valley Century Ride 2014-No Passing Love-In

I have to say this is probably one the best century rides I have ridden so far. The scenery and challenge of the course was extraordinary. I cannot believe this ride is not more well-known. If you have a chance to ride this course or do the actual ride next June I would highly recommend it.

Steelman 2010 Triathlon Race Report

SteelmanTriRun638 It’s hard to believe I have embarked on my third triathlon already in the last year. The Steelman was one I had steered away from last year due to a longer than usual swim. The Steelman Sprint consists of a 860yd(0.5 mile) swim, a 15 mi. bike and a 5k(3mi) run. This year it seemed to be the missing piece to my puzzle. I am preparing for my first Olympic distance tri, The Quakerman, this September which is also at Lake Nockamixon. I had attended two open water swim clinics at Nockamixon earlier in the summer to hone up on my weakest sport of the three. The clinic left me with good amount of confidence in the swim. So in order to keep that rolling, I thought the Steelman sprint was the perfect event to parlay that confidence. The Steelman sprint swim is a half mile which is only a tenth less the Quakerman Olympic swim and all other sprints I had done previous were only a quarter mile. The only bad thing about the timing of this event was that I pulled a calf muscle(soleus) about a week and half before the event. I had laid off it totally after it occurred and babied it with ice and rest, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to last the whole run or not. The worst thing would be if I totally ripped it and could not attend the Quakerman. So if I got any pain it would be a walk event.

The Steelman event is very well organized and has been recognized by Triathlon magazine as well as good reviews from competitors. The coordinator had sent a slew of emails out notifying everyone of every little thing came up, in addition to an 80+ page Athletes document with full instructions. No lack of communication here! I decided to head down there on Saturday to do my packet picket and do an easy ride of the bike course. They had a little mini-expo setup so I picked up a few things for my new bike.

The athlete instructions said that sprint distance athletes must be in the park by 5:30AM due to the closing of the main road(RT 563) for the race. We would also not be allowed out of the park until at least 10:30AM that morning. That is a bit of a drag especially for any spectators that want to see you race. Due to this restriction I told my only fan, my wife, that she did not need to attend this one. It is just a training event for me anyway. I thought being there by 5:30AM would give me plenty of time to warm up in each discipline, but the long line at the port-a-potty consumed alot of time and they also closed the transition area at 6:45AM. This was really annoying since my wave of swim didn’t go until 7:45Am! A whole hour of standing around. Fortunately my swim instructor was there to watch the event and I shot the breeze with him for a while.

After standing around for an hour, they finally called my wave for the swim start. When we all got in the water everyone was hanging back from the start buoy except one guy. The announcer made a funny comment about it and we all moved up. The water temperature was 80 degrees, so wetsuits were not USAT legal. I really was prepared for this and had practiced this in the swim clinic. I started out staying to the inside of the buoys. This was nice since there wasn’t any traffic to contend with, but when I tried to get in to round the first turn buoy things got a little congested. Course was a bit of a rectangle with a counter-clockwise direction. Things got a little better after the second turn buoy and everyone started spacing out. I did take a couple breathers on my back, but this was by far the most consistent swim I have had as well as my longest(0.5 mi). The open-water swim clinics I had taken earlier definitely increased my swimming confidence and my ability to relax in the water. Swim Time: 17:50 (Pace: 36:23, 232/537)

T1 was ok. A long jog into the transition got my bike and out of there. Biggest mistake here was running out of transition while being on right side of my bike. I didn’t realize this until I tried to get on my bike and then I had to move  around to the other side. This was also my first tri with my new bike, a Quintana Roo Caliente, and I had not practiced any transitions with it. This became quite evident with both T1 and T2. Something to work on for next time, which is the main reason I did this race. One other note is that my Swim Instructor, Scott, was there cheering in the transition area which was pretty motivating. T1 Time: 2:02

I was pretty excited to get out on the bike course with my new tri bike. The Nockamixon bike course on Rt 563 is fairly hilly compared to the past two tri’s I did in NJ, but not that different from what I usually ride at home. I was hoping that this may be a bit of an advantage for me compared to some of the flatlanders in my wave. Coming out of the transition in the marina the first thing you hit is a little steep climb out towards the road. That really wakes the legs up after swimming for 20 mins. I think a couple guys passed me going up it but I ended up passing them before we got out to Rt. 563. This one guy in the Olympic race and I kept jockeying back and forth the whole time. I would pass him on the hills and he would pass me on the flats. It kind of helped keep my motivation to stay with him. Bike Time: 41:12 (Pace 18.6, 45/537)

T2 was a little bit of a rough time. First off I came flying into the dismount area and almost flipped my bike over when I got off. The bike is much lighter than my old bike and I didn’t distribute my weight properly. Nothing a little transition practice cannot cure. Then I could not find my stuff in the transition area. I was a row over and just could not see it. I even had my Austin Powers towel hanging there which I thought would be really noticeable. Apparently not. Despite these hiccups, my time wasn’t too bad. T2 Time: 1:28

The run was the part that I was most wary of due to my calf injury. I didn’t know how long that I could last running without that coming back again. I surely didn’t want to make it worse, so if it did start hurting I would probably be walking the rest of that leg. I started out very slowly making sure I was in my best Chirunning form. My calf felt really good and I started thinking I might be able to run the whole time. Then came the halfway turnaround.  About a tenth of a mile after that it felt like someone stabbed my in the back of the leg! Shit! How could that go from feeling fine one second to piercing pain the next? I walked a little bit, but kept giving it another try…nothing. Then I somehow found a form that I could run and it didn’t hurt. I think I was basically keeping that leg straighter, kind of like I had a leg cast on, and was able to make it the whole. It wasn’t fast by any means but if I could salvage my overall race a bit it was worth it. Run Time: 28:16( Pace: 9:07, 321/537)

My overall time was 1:30:45 which is ok. Hey it was only a training  race anyway, so I am happy with it. I definitely got some things to work on for my Olympic race which is my high priority. I finished 14 out of 39 in my age group which puts me solidly in the top half. The only thing that kinda stinks is that a solid run could have put me in the top 5 or at least close. But there is always next year. The post-race food was pretty good. Tons of fruit and some pizza and cookies to satisfy my post-race junk food urge. Hung out for a bit, talked with a couple I knew and eventually they let us out of the park.

 

 

 

 

 

Race Result

Place Bib#  D Name                   Age G City    St Rank 860ydsw Pace  Tran1   Rank 12.8mbk Rate Tran2   Rank 5krun   Pace  Penalty Final   Div/Tot  Div     Gen/Tot  G  
===== ===== = ====================== === = ======= == ==== ======= ===== ======= ==== ======= ==== ======= ==== ======= ===== ======= ======= ======== ======= ======== = 
122    638  S Brian Schwind           42 M ALBURTI PA  232   17:50 36:23    2:02   45   41:12  18.6    1:28  321   28:16  9:07         1:30:45  14/39   M40-44   82/291  M 

Links:

Sprint Order of Finish Results

Spring Award Winner Results